We interviewed Vladimir Litvinov and Olga Nikolajeva, the winners of the Amateur Rising Star Latin at the Blackpool Dance Festival 2012 in the lobby of our hotel. They were such a lovely people to talk to and we had lots of laughs trying to communicate with a mixture of Russian and English! Vladimir and Olga represent Russia - see their profile page.
[dancing] is art… but it would not be possible without the discipline the sport gives us. We will not be able to produce such art if we don’t work on it just as sportsmen do. The art part would be flawed and not as good.
Congratulations to both of you, you were fantastic on the floor. Well done! Let’s start with the usual question: when did you start dancing?
[Olga] I was six years old when I started Ballroom dancing. All my friends were there and I also wanted it. It was in Yaroslav in Russia where I come from. My first partner was Kirill Belorukov and we danced in Juvenile and Junior. Later I moved to Lithuania for one year to dance with Dominykas. After a year or so I went back to Russia to dance with Nikita Brovko and then I had a break for eight months. I had two more partners and in December 2011 we started dancing together with Vladimir.
[Vladimir] I started dancing when I was seven years old in Penza, in Russia. When I was sixteen I moved to Moscow where I met Zhenya (Evgeniy Ryupin). We are still dancing in his club. So, when I came to Moscow I started with Sasha Akimova and we danced together for about three years. I had another partner after Sasha - Julia Nikitenko, and then met Olga.
How did you two meet?
[Olga] Our friends introduced us to each other!
[Vladimir] Olga’s mum also dances and at some competition she and Masha, my Pro/Am partner, started talking about this pretty girl who is looking for a partner. They were talking of Olga.
Did you know each other before?
[Vladimir] Yes, of course I knew of Olga. She was in the top three in the world with Nikita and you tend to know of top dancers. I wanted to dance with her very much, I liked her style and the way she moved.
So how was your first try-out?
[Olga] I taught his partner Masha. And one day he came to the class and we tried together. And, from the first moment, I was sure he is the one and I will dance with him!
[Vladimir] I remember we danced a bit of Samba and Olga told me that she never felt that good with another partner before. I liked it as well.
[Olga] His hands were shaking!
What do you like best in your partner?
[Olga] I like that his knows how to handle me properly (laughing). I can be very emotional sometimes and Vladimir always calms me down so we don’t fight. He is simply a good guy.
Is this so hard?? (laughing)
[Olga] I have to cover my ears now (laughing)!!
[Vladimir] Well, first of all she is an honest person. And I really mean it, you cannot say that about everybody! She is emotional and sensitive and cares about things. For instance here in Blackpool, she was so nervous and emotional about everything, about every mistake, and I can understand it as this competition was extremely important for her and for both of us really. Perhaps this is the most important competition for any dancer. So I can understand this. Every little thing counts on the day.
What is the most important for you in dancing?
[Vladimir] For me, the most important thing is to understand each other in dancing. Another thing is to be able to work hard. If you want to get any results you must understand that you will not get anywhere unless you are prepared to work very hard.
[Olga] We both really enjoy each other and respect each other in dancing. The feeling in this partnership is really important for me. Also, I love the performance aspect, the communication with the audience and feeling that the audience is moved and that we were able to invoke emotions in them. For me this is really important, on any competition, that I feel that connection with the spectators. I am always looking for people smiling at us.
[Vladimir] Yes, it is important to invoke these emotions with performance you create. It lifts you up when you know people respond. You want to do more for them. I believe that every couple has their own opinion of what is important for them but for us that connection with each other, the partnering, and then communicating it to our audience is very important.
Is there a sport aspect in your dancing?
[Olga] Of course, practise and competitions are sport elements in our dancing.
[Vladimir] Simply competing between couples is a concept from the sport world. They show what they learned, they show what they can do and they get judged.
Which element of the competitive dancing is more important for you: sport or art?
[Olga] I think it is art… but it would not be possible without the discipline which treating dancing as sport gives us. We will not be able to produce such art if we don’t work on it just as sportsmen do. The art part would be flawed and not as good.
[Vladimir] It is mixed but sport element is quite strong in dancing. If you take a 100 meter runner as an example: he or she needs to translate their body strength to energy to be able to perform. And the same happens for us. But this struggle happens on a dance floor and not on a 100 meter track. To win you have to use your strength, energy, you need work and endurance.
Yes, but it is easy to announce a winner for 100 meters. You can either see who came first, or you can use the camera to find it out. In dancing there is no such an easy measure. It is highly subjective. Judges may like one couple but audience can prefer somebody else...
[Olga] OK, it is complicated.
[Vladimir] When you dance, you dance for the audience. People come to watch competitions just like they come to watch ballet. It is for the pleasure. So we come out to the dance floor, this is our scene, to be seen by the audience and we perform for them. Judging is secondary here. We get judged and compared to other couples but this is perhaps less important to us.
So the theatre is more important than the stadium?
[Vladimir] Well, let’s say it is theatre on the stadium! (laughing)
Are you together as a couple in private life?
How do you manage your private life and your dancing? Are you able to separate your private life?
[Vladimir] We just do! (laughing)
[Olga] We are not yet that long together, just half a year, and we somehow manage (laughing). There were not yet any serious arguments, or situations, or problems during practice which we would struggle with really. So for now, we manage quite well! Maybe we are just lucky. If there is some tension at the practice we manage to leave it there and not bring it home. I guess I am just a very patient and agreeable person! (laughing)
OK, if you read our interviews we published before you know I always ask this question: what don’t you like in your partner?
[Olga] In private life I cannot find any fault. But during practice I would like him to pay more attention to my opinions. I would like him to take my needs more into account. I can sometimes tell him something many times but unless I shout he will ignore me! (laughing). OK, I know it is not necessarily intentional. He concentrates intensely during practice and he simply doesn’t pay much attention to anything else, he does not hear me. But I am one of those dancers to whom it is important how she feels in the partnership. It is important to me how my partner connects with me. It must feel really good. I know there are girls who can do it all themselves and partnering is not as important for them. But I need a partner and he sometimes doesn’t listen to my needs!
[Vladimir] OK, what I am going to say is not as much as the worst thing in her, but something normal in her. It is that she is very emotional. She reacts to everything with strong emotions. It is sometimes difficult to bear! But it is all about how you approach it.
[Olga] I must admit he really knows how to handle me when I am like this. But ask us again in a year time! (laughing)
[Vladimir] Yes, I wonder what we will have to say then!
[Olga] We will be like: I hate this and this and this in him!
[Vladimir] We will come prepared with a list: here are pluses and here are minuses
Do you follow any special diet?
[Olga] We train a lot so we try to eat properly.
[Vladimir] I like pasta. I like red wine
[Olga] Me too. We like everything really. We like everything that is tasty (laughing)
[Vladimir] We try to eat well and heartily and practise hard as well. You need to eat well to have strength and energy. I know many dancers who don’t eat before competition but, looking at it from physiology point of view, food is essential for producing energy. Energy from the Red Bull is not the same! You need to eat.
Who helps you with choreography?
[Vladimir] We work on it with Zhenya Ryupin.
[Olga] When we first started dancing together we did it all ourselves and then later took Zhenya’s suggestions to improve it.
[Vladimir] It is a process, we keep changing elements we don’t like or which don’t feel well. We try get better all the time.
[Olga] After this Blackpool it became clear to us that we need to change many things or do them differently really.
It is interesting you saying that after you won the Amateur Rising Star Latin competition!
[Olga] Yes, we want to improve for the next time!
[Vladimir] We also met with another teacher… Barbara McCall and Tone Nyhagen actually, who can give us some ideas.
Do you have teachers who take care of one specific aspect of your dancing or do you prefer more overall view?
[Olga] When we see somebody new we usually want them to tell us what they think about our dancing first. So, after 45 minutes of conversation (laughing) we get to the specific dances and start working on them. Sometimes, the teacher has seen us on some competition and can tell us what he or she liked least and suggest to work on that particular dance, for example Paso Doble. We have one person who we work on choreography with. Other teachers work on all the other elements of dancing with us. They don’t concentrate on one aspect but on overall look. We want them to tell us what we are lacking or missing.
[Vladimir] We want to keep on improving and we want them to contribute to it and help us with it.
Does Zhenya, as your main coach, suggest other teacher you can go to or do you decide yourselves?
What competitions do you go to?
[Olga] Everywhere really! Since we started dancing together we danced everywhere we could, all the big and major international competitions. Before, we both danced mainly competitions you can call local in Russia or Ukraine. But in this partnership we want to dance the big English competitions, perhaps Dutch Open, the International and so on.
So when you travel to these competitions are you planning to do some sightseeing as well? Is it also a holiday for you?
[Olga] No, it is just a competition. We go there with a specific target in mind and it is to compete. Ok, we can do a bit of shopping as well (laughing). Well, perhaps if we had more holiday days to use we could spend a day or two after the competition to see some places. It would be nice to relax like that.
Have you ever danced Ballroom?
[Olga] Yes we did, but not together.
[Vladimir] I danced Ballroom until maybe age of fourteen or fifteen and then I stopped. One reason was that my dance club specialised more in Latin and the emphasis was on Latin. I must say I liked it more as well. I think it agrees with my character. Latin is closer to my heart, the music, the movement. I really like Cuban rhythms. I also like to watch a high quality, top quality Ballroom but I prefer to dance Latin.
[Olga] I always knew that if I was to choose one style to dance, it would be Latin. For me Latin was always more interesting and more exciting to dance than Ballroom. I also feel that Latin agrees with my character as it is full of passion and energy. I think you can express yourself more when dancing Latin than Ballroom.
What was your favourite dance here in Blackpool or least favourite?
[Olga] For a long time we did not feel too well in Rumba. But for some reason, here in Blackpool, I felt great dancing Rumba.
[Vladimir] I actually liked them all but the most favourite one for me was Paso Doble. I liked the music, especially the orchestra. You can hear all the nuances and all the beats. It is interesting to dance to orchestra.
[Olga] Yes, it is but sometimes it is strange and unusual for us. There were moments when it surprised us...
[Vladimir] You can hear it all very well, and you can synchronise with them. It feels like you and the orchestra become one... You feel all the instruments and your dancing contribute to one big performance.
[Olga] We were so happy because it all worked so well for us. Everything came together.
[Olga] We were so happy because it all worked so well for us. Everything came together.
What is your favourite music? Do you like Blackpool music?
[Olga] Yes, we like it very much.
[Vladimir] I know that many couples like to dance with the live orchestra. It gives you that extra something. It is a different sound as well. For that reason, I usually prefer more classic dance music because this is what the orchestras tend to play. But there are days when I prefer to switch some modern music on.
[Olga] Yes, sometimes you feel like dancing to some pop or disco music!
[Vladimir] There are many competitions where they play this modern pop dance music. And, if it suits us, we like it as well.
Thank you very much and good luck for the future
All photos taken on the day by Peter Suba